­Plaque in Cromwell Road, Bishophill, York

York Quakers purchased Bishophill Burial Ground in 1667. It closed for burials in 1854 and was succeeded in 1855 by the large Quaker burial ground shared with The Retreat in Heslington Road. This is still in use.

By the mid 19th century the now distinctive form of Quaker headstone – small, round-topped, identical in shape and size – had been widely adopted to reflect the Quaker belief in the equality of all human beings in life and death. Some of Bishophill’s surviving stones predate this uniformity. Dates were originally inscribed in numbers only to avoid using names of the month based on those of pagan deities. The headstones have been repositioned around the perimeter walls of what is now a private garden. This is not open to the public except by arrangement with Friargate Quaker Meeting House where a detailed plan of the graveyard is kept.

Amongst the extant headstones are those of the American John Woolman who came to England to garner Quaker support for the abolition of slavery but died of smallpox in York in 1772, the grammarian Lindley Murray (d.1826), and several members of the Tuke family: Elizabeth Tuke (d.1760), Esther Tuke (founder of the girls’ school which became The Mount School) and Henry Tuke (d.1814), Mary Maria Tuke (d.1815),and William Tuke who founded The Retreat (d.1822).


With thanks to members of the Society of Friends, Friargate Quaker Meeting House, York


© Pat Hill